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Xbox One trims $50 for the holidays

The price of the Xbox One will drop by $50 for a limited time in the United States starting November 2, Microsoft announced. The stand-alone system will cost $350 until January 3, 2015 at participating retailers, which will include Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft's stores, Target, Toys R Us and Walmart.

The holiday savings applies to all versions of the console, so those in the market for one of Microsoft's Xbox One bundles will also save $50 during the two-month period. That includes the Assassin's Creed Unity bundle, available before Unity launches over a week later, will cost $350 for the standard version that also includes Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag and $450 for the version with both games and Kinect. The temporary price cut follows a much more permanent one the UK received in September.
[Image: Microsoft]

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Microsoft unveils Kinect PC adapter, issues SDK 2.0 for free

Today must be Christmas for would-be Kinect hackers as Microsoft has made it even easier to dig into the guts of its 3D camera peripheral with both new software and hardware.

Most notably, Kinect fans can download the gadget's new software developer's kit at no charge. Not only does SDK 2.0 include "over 200 improvements" since June's public preview, Microsoft also claims it's a "substantially more stable and feature-rich product." That should come in handy for developers hoping to sell their Kinect-enabled wares through the Windows Store, as alongside the new SDK 2.0, Microsoft now allows Kinect developers to commercially deploy their programs through the digital distribution platform. "This was a frequent request from the community and we are delighted to enable you to bring more personal computing experiences that feature gesture control, body tracking, and object recognition to Windows customers around the world," reads Microsoft's announcement.

Additionally, Microsoft has released a $50 Kinect adaptor that uses USB 3.0 to connect to a Windows 8 or 8.1 PC. While it won't replace the Windows-native Kinect for Windows camera peripheral, the adapter should make it easier to link an Xbox One Kinect with your home computer.
[Image: Microsoft]

Report: Saints Row: The Cooler was canceled THQ brawler

Saints Row: The Cooler appears to have been a fighting game canceled in the twilight years of publisher THQ. Unseen64 reports the brawler, which was in development at Heavy Iron Studios, tried to capitalize on the motion control movement from several years back. Two versions of the game were planned, with one for Xbox 360's Kinect and the other envisioned for PlayStation 3's Move peripheral.

Although it was supposed to be a motion controlled fighting game, The Cooler would have also reportedly have featured mini-games like poker tournaments and the ability to "get lap dances." Although, we imagine, providing lap dances would be a far better workout. Gotta work them glutes.

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Microsoft's RoomAlive turns your living room into a holodeck



Microsoft's IllumiRoom project has expanded beyond a single-Kinect set-up and is now called "RoomAlive." RoomAlive turns an enclosed area into an interactive gaming space, with enemies and puzzles projected on walls, floors and objects for residents to take out with their hands, feet or peripherals. The new and improved RoomAlive uses multiple projectors and depth cameras to scan a room and all of its contents, and then it superimposes interactive environments on top of everything.

"IllumiRoom was largely focused on display, extending traditional gaming experiences out of the TV," the Microsoft Research team writes. "RoomAlive instead focuses on interaction, and the new kinds of games that we can create with interactive projection mapping. RoomAlive looks farther into the future of projection mapping and asks, 'What new experiences will we have in the next few years?'"

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NBA 2K15 scans your face, thinks you're beautiful

NBA 2K15 will feature the ability for players to scan their faces into the game and onto the bodies of digital athletes. 2K Sports revealed the feature in a tutorial video, which instructs prospective virtual basketballers to hold the PlayStation Camera six to 12 inches away from their faces. After slowly turning their head both ways, players will find their mapped mugs in the game, at which point they can fine-tune their features. Created players can then be used in MyCareer mode, where they will likely get dunked on by cover star Kevin Durant.

While the tutorial mentioned the PlayStation Camera by name, 2K says the feature uses "first-party camera hardware." The publisher also doesn't specify whether the feature is locked to a given console, indicating that Xbox One players can use the Kinect to scan their faces as well. NBA 2K15 will launch October 7 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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Rumor: Here's what a Kinect-powered Gears of War looked like

A Kinect-controlled RTS spinoff in Microsoft's Gears of War franchise made it to the prototyping stage on the Xbox 360 before it was quietly canceled, a newly released gameplay video at VGLeaks suggests.

The video demonstrates motion-controlled gameplay presented from an overhead perspective. Players use gesture controls to target enemies as they guide a four-person team through destroyed urban environments, making use of environmental cover throughout.

Given that Kinect 1.0's gesture recognition and response was sporadic even under the best conditions, an action-focused RTS seems like a poor fit for the peripheral. Apparently Microsoft and developer Epic Games agreed, as Gears of War: Tactics was never officially announced. The game's current development status is unknown.

[Image: Microsoft / Epic Games / VGLeaks]

Get an Xbox One Kinect sensor for $150 in October

xbox one kinect
A standalone Kinect sensor for Xbox One will hit retail for $150 on October 7, Microsoft announced this morning. The solo Kinect sensor comes with a copy of Dance Central Spotlight.

In May, Microsoft announced that it would sell Xbox One consoles without the Kinect for $400, a $100 drop in price. Dance Central Spotlight comes from Harmonix, a studio whose games largely rely on Kinect – when news of the dis-Kinected Xbox One unit went live, Harmonix shared its gut reactions on Twitter, along with an official statement re-establishing its commitment to Kinect games such as Fantasia: Music Evolved.

A month after launching the Kinect-less console in June, Xbox One sales doubled in the US, Microsoft reported.
[Image: Microsoft]

Spencer: 'I don't want the Rare brand to mean Kinect Sports'


Xbox head Phil Spencer has some encouraging words to fans of GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie development studio Rare. Speaking to CVG at Gamescom, Spencer said that the company is developing a new game - a new "Rare game."

"I think it's about them thinking about the next game that's going to be the next 'Rare game' and really stand for what they are," Spencer said. "I know they've got some great ideas. I've not been up to Twycross for maybe six months, but I'm planning on getting up there this fall and seeing bits for the new game. But I know they're hard at work and Phil Harrison has been up talking to them."

Rare was under evaluation earlier this year, after Microsoft revealed a Kinect-free Xbox One. Rare was the developer behind the Kinect Sports series, and with no more guaranteed Kinect, the studio's future seemed questionable. However, Spencer assured CVG that Rare was an "important" part of Xbox's future.

"I don't want the Rare brand to mean Kinect Sports," Spencer said. "The Rare brand can be more valuable to them, to us and to gamers than that."

[Image: Microsoft]

Watch the Microsoft Gamescom press conference right here [Update: It's over!]

The Xbox press conference, live from Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, goes live at 2PM CEST (8AM ET, 5AM PT, 1PM UK). In other words, any minute now. Watch the livestream right here and be sure to follow along with our liveblog straight from the press conference.

Update: The stream may be over, but the good times keep on rolling. We have all the announcements from the event on hand, plus an archived version of the stream embedded below.

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Microsoft's Xbox revenue up 14% thanks to console sales

Microsoft reported an increase in revenue for the Xbox platform to the tune of $104 million, or 14 percent, in its fourth quarter results (ending June 30). Xbox One and Xbox 360 sales teamed with the company's Surface sales to boost its Computing and Gaming Hardware category by 23 percent for the quarter to $1.44 billion (an increase of $274 million). In total, Microsoft reported a 17.7 percent leap in revenue, from $19.9 billion to $23.4 billion in the past quarter.

Microsoft says it shipped 1.1 million consoles during the quarter, which compares to one million in the same period of time one year ago. Just last week, the company said sales of its Kinect-less packages doubled Xbox One sales in June. As of April, Microsoft shipped 5 million Xbox One systems to date. Meanwhile, NPD reported a substantial lift in video game hardware sales across the board last week, an increase of 106 percent in June compared to the previous month.
[Image: Microsoft]

UK charts: Watch Dogs stands guard, market melts in heat


Watch Dogs notched its fifth UK number one this week, the most for any game in 2014, and that's all well and good. Frankly, the entire country is just too exhausted from the relentless summer heat to notice. Brits are so used to rain, clouds, rain and more rain, so prolonged heatwaves like this one tend to take their toll.

Maybe the heat's even affected games retail in the country, with nationwide sales enduring a 14 percent drop in revenue from the week before as the heat ramped up. Then again, it really doesn't help when you're having a summer drought of new releases.

Since the UK charts refuse to play - it's another week of tiny changes - we're continuing our run of music below the break. In the words of Avicii, wake us up when it's all over.

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TMNT: Training Lair snapping at Kinect next week

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair will launch July 22, a source close to the game has informed Joystiq. Achievements for Training Lair along with purported screenshots leaked earlier this week, showing a Kinect-based TMNT spin-off reminiscent of Fruit Ninja Kinect.

The Xbox 360 game is the culmination of a partnership between Paramount Pictures and Microsoft, not related to Activision as originally reported. Training Lair combines the Kinect's motion-capturing abilities with film assets to promote the upcoming film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game launches roughly two and a half weeks before the movie hits theaters on August 8, and will be free to download.
[Image @lifelower]

MS: Kinect-less debut sees Xbox One monthly sales double in US

It looks like the Kinect-less line of Xbox One helped give the console a boost in June, when sales of the system in the US were "more than double" those of May. Microsoft announced the stat, revealing its internal data is based on its "retail calendar and sold through numbers," meaning they represent sales to consumers rather than shipments to retailers.

The company didn't offer any hard figures in its announcement, including what proportion of sales came from systems without the Kinect motion sensor. We may get a clearer picture of the Xbox One's sales performance on July 22 when Microsoft presents its latest financial earnings release. In April, the company said it had shipped 5 million systems to date, while at the end of last year consumer sales were up to 3 million.

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Disney taps Kinect 2.0 for kid-focused promotional campaign

Alongside its latest Cars spinoff, Planes: Fire & Rescue, Disney plans to unveil a promotional campaign powered by Microsoft's Kinect 3D camera peripheral.

According to Dan Radford, head of digital marketing at Disney's UK office, the campaign will allow two children to control their own animated planes by extending their arms, bending their knees and leaning in various directions. That sounds simple, but similar, previous attempts using the original Kinect forced Radford to pair the peripheral with a high-definition camera capable of capturing real-time video at a quality suitable for big screens. That's no longer an issue, thanks to the high-definition camera found in the Kinect 2.0.

"When you had a four-year-old kid interacting with [the Kinect] there had to be a certain distance [between the camera and the player], but it didn't always pick them up as well as we would have hoped," Radford told the BBC. "With this camera it just feels like the opportunity is there to create a more stable experience."

Planes: Fire & Rescue stars the vocal talents of Dane Cook and Ed Harris, and will be released on July 18. Radford's promotional campaign kicks off "at the end of this week," though Disney has yet to reveal where this campaign will appear.
[Image: Disney]

Report: TMNT - Training Lair has Kinect ninja skills, Pizza Hut boxes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair features heroes-in-a-half-shell with Kinect power, according to recently published box art and achievements. Xbox Achievements (formerly Xbox 360 Achievements) published the cheevos and Kinect-tabbed box art this week, and it noted the publisher of the motion-controlled Xbox 360 game as Activision.

The company does hold the TMNT games license, but it hasn't announced the game as yet, and there's no sign of it on any official Xbox listings. We've reached out to Activision to see if we can lure more info out of its shell.

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